For me it was Father’s day yesterday.
For my father loved MKT songs, and yesterday, at Bharat Kalachar, Chennai, there was a feast of MKT music.
For those not fortunate enough to know of MKT, here’s a little brief. MKT is the popular short name of MK Thyagaraja Bhagavatar, arguably one of the greatest stars of Tamil Cinema. As his wikipedia entry describes. “M.K.T., was a Tamil film actor, producer, and Carnatic music singer. He is considered to be one of the most successful Tamil film actors ever.” A genius, he strode the Tamil theater scene like a collosus, in the 1930s and early 40s – just the time that my father moving from high school to college… And so it was that MKT songs became part of his very breathing, and thereafter, a part of our family music legacy!
And now about the function yesterday. They were celebrating the centenary year of MKT. YG Mahendra did the introductions. Umayalapuram Sivaraman, the great Mridangam maestro, spoke about the music of MKT. And then Sriram, the music-historian-writer of ‘The Hindu’ newspaper, gave a scintillating speech on the life and times of MKT.
Then started the music. The renowned theater person ARS, was the MC. The singer was the young Suryaprakash, and was he “WOW, WOW, WOW” or what! He brought MKT alive to the stage. Raising his natural pitch a couple of notches, his rendering of MKT songs was near perfect. You could see that by the audience reaction. Elderly folks were dancing in their seats, hands doing ‘Taalam’, heads shaking, bodies swinging, lips syncing – it was an evening of pure happiness. There were some in the audience who were shedding tears of joy! Suryaprakash’s own joy was clearly coming through, in every note that he rendered. And the nuances of MKT were all shining through – whether it be “Krishna, mukunda, murarey”, or “Unnai kandu mayangaatha”, or “unnai allaal oru thurumbu asaiyumo, O panduranga”, or “Dheena Karunakarane…”…
Oh, it was an MKT monsoon! Amba manam kanindadu, annaiyum thantaiyum taane, Bhoomiyil maanida janmam, Jnanakkan Onrirundidum, Oru Naal Oru Pozhudagilum, Vasanta ritu mana mohaname… Or the non-film song that MKT composed when the great Mahatma was assassinated – “Gandhiyaipol oru…”.
The highpoint of the evening was the presence of MKT’s sister, now in her eighties, sitting inconspicuously, right in the back of the audience – and then someone noticed her, and they stopped the show to announce her presence and escorted her to the first row!
A nice show to honor a great artiste! An artiste whose life reads like a movie script. Rising from humble beginnings, how he came to become “the superstar”, who commanded a fee of 1 lakh rupees per film in those days (equal to many-many crores today). An not-so-worldly-wise, religious man, how he did not make the “right friends” in society and politics, and how tragedy then just waited to happen. And then how he was imprisoned, and then later declared innocent and released after 30 months in prison. How his career decline set in, and he passed away at the young age of 50, in 1959, unhonored, but maybe not unwept. And now, not unsung either.
Hope they have more MKT concerts this year! For they don’t make them like MKT anymore!